Joey Verma's text messages became increasingly hostile after his cousin told police their activities the day Brittney Irving disappeared.
Jason Labonte, the Crown's star witness at Verma's murder trial, testified Verma asked him to drive up to a remote part of McCulloch Road and haul out his borrowed truck, which had become stuck in the mud. Weeks later, police found Irving's bullet-ridden body nearby.
When police first spoke to Labonte about her disappearance, he said nothing about helping Verma dislodge the truck because "I didn't want to get anyone in trouble for something they may not have done." He
later reconsidered and gave police a fuller version of what happened on April 6, 2010.
By late May, Verma was feeling the heat. He complained to Labonte, whose nickname is Cutter, by text message.
"You need to see me in person, Cutter. I need to know what you have said to these guys! I'm hearing things!!," Verma typed via BlackBerry. "I told you to keep your f***ing mouth shut, man!"
Labonte testified he was on vacation and at home alone on April 6 when Verma, now 32, came over and had coffee with him. Later, Irving drove her Ford Explorer into his driveway and, with Verma's help,
unloaded two full plastic garbage bags and a box.
They stored the items in Labonte's garage and Irving, 24, left. Verma drove away soon after in a truck he'd borrowed from Mike Roberts, a man who lived nearby, Labonte said.
After he picked up his kids from school, Labonte got a text message from Verma saying the truck was stuck and to come help him. Verma told him to come by himself, Labonte said.
Roberts had Verma's truck, so Labonte asked him to drive it to his place. Roberts complied and asked if he needed help. Labonte declined.
Labonte drove to a section of McCulloch Road where he and Verma had hiked before. He found Verma standing outside the truck and used a tow line attached to his truck to pull it out of the mud. They both drove back into town and Labonte returned Verma's truck to Roberts.
Weeks later, Verma told Labonte "I had to kill her." Labonte dismissed it as fiction, he said.
"It was just talk - Joey talking," he said.
Police suspect Verma met Irving on McCulloch Road and shot her to death during a drug deal. The prosecution says Irving intended to sell him 50 pounds of
Verma gave Labonte a bag of garbage he wanted him to dispose of a week after Irving disappeared. He threw it in a dumpster without looking in the bag.
"I assumed it was something Joey didn't want. It could have been drugs," he said.
Labonte eventually drove with Mounties to the spot where Verma got stuck. Verma knew he was talking to investigators but the two
didn't talk much about what he was telling them, he said.
That changed in late May when Labonte gave police his firearms and two of Verma's guns, which he stored in a gun safe. Labonte was a licensed hunter, and he and Verma had hunted together before.
The men exchanged text messages on May 25 soon after Labonte surrendered the firearms. He told Verma he was "not very happy about what I got dragged into."
"I bet not. I got dragged into it too. But it's all good bro. They gotta do what they gotta do," Verma wrote.
They met at a car dealership. Labonte told him he was worried about him because "stuff was in the media." They discussed his conversation with the RCMP.
"I was scared for him," Labonte testified. "He just said not to worry about it. Then just before we parted, he gave me a hug and said if he's going down, everyone's going down."
Soon after, Verma found how much police knew about what Labonte had revealed. He accused his cousin of saying too much and demanded another meeting. (See text messages below. )
The trial continues.
The text conversation between Joey Verma and his cousin Jason Labonte on May 27, 2010, starts with a friendly tone.
As they exchange messages, however, it becomes clear Verma is angry that Labonte has given police too much information about Verma's activities the day Brittney Irving disappeared seven weeks earlier.
He demands a face-to-face meeting, but Labonte is reluctant. Here are excerpts:
Verma: You need to see me in person, Cutter (Labonte's nickname). I need to know what you have said to these guys! I'm hearing things!! And I need to know what lawyer you will need.
Labonte: I do need to see you some time tomorrow, I think.
Verma: Well the longer you wait the more s*** you will be in . . . I was told at the gym by an official to tell you to shut the f*** up!
Labonte: Bro I didn't do anything.
Verma: I know you didn't do anything. It's what you have said . . . I told you to keep your f***in mouth shut man!
Labonte: It has been shut.
Verma: Good I hope so because that's all that will help you . . . So keep your head (on) straight, you're fine. Keep it zipped. I have a meeting with my lawyer tomorrow and we'll see what he says.
Labonte: I hear ya. But I didn't do anything, so why would keeping my mouth shut help me?
Verma: Welcome to the real world, Cutter . . . I need to see you in f***in person . . . That's a dummy question.
Verma: When can you see me?
Labonte: Tomorrow bro. Driving to basketball with Austin.
Verma: Well meet your brother right away. Make yourself available! . . . I'm at a buddy's place (he gives directions down Country Club Drive to a condo) I'll see you, just buzz me.
Labonte: Whose buddy?
Verma: My buddy . . .You will meet him, her, it LOL.
Labonte: I'm not talking in front of anybody I don't know bro . . . No I mean I ain't comin out there.
Verma: What? Come out you f***er . . . I'll come outside to you.
Labonte: Is it safe out there?
Verma: That's why I'm here bro. S'matter for you? . . .
Labonte: I'm scared. That's what's the matter.
Verma: Bro, I love you!! . . . You're all I got Bro!
Labonte: Ya I know you love me, Bro. Doesn't change the fact I'm scared.
Verma: I know . . . But you don't have to be scared Cutter at all . . . I talked to our lawyer, it's all good.
Labonte: Ya I'll be there shortly.
Verma: OK. It's all good. I just want to tell you what he's saying . . . I'm cooking steak. Do you want one?
Labonte: No I'm good bro.
Verma: Mother-f***er hike any mother-f***ing mountain in any f***ing weather in any f***in terrain, kill any f***ing animal. You tellin me you're scared man? Stop playing and get yo ass up here!!
The two met in the lobby of the condo near Kelowna Airport, Labonte testified. He was scared because he's spoken to the RCMP several times and started to suspect Verma had "done something," he said. Police arrested Verma a month later.